Why Email Can Be Bad For You

In the smartphone era, everyone is connected all the time. It seems practical... until your email starts putting you in a bad mood. It's certainly no secret that your smartphone has negative impact on you health and that incessantly checking your email (especially after work) can stress you out — but it turns out that the combination of the two can be particularly horrible.

According to new research conducted by psychologists from University of Hamburg in Germany and published in the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, people who are expected to be checking their email for work-related messages even when they're not on the clock experience a higher stress response whenever they do check their email in general. The researchers surveyed 132 people from 13 different workplaces over a period of eight days. For four of those days, the participants were expected to be available for work even after they had clocked out for the day, while for the remaining four, they were not. Then they collected saliva samples from half the participants.

Unsurprisingly, they found that when someone is expected to be available for work even when they're not physically at their workplace, there is a higher level of the stress hormone cortisol present in their system than when they're not expected to be present and not checking their email. That stress, in turn, leads to less sleep, which leads to less productivity, which leads to you not getting your job done, and, well... you get the idea. Apparently being hooked to your phone and email for the sake of being a productive employee actually does that opposite.

So we know that email stresses us out — but why, exactly, does it do that? Here are a few possibilities that might convince you to put down your phone and turn off your email notifications this weekend — even if you feel like you have to be available for work 24/7.

1. Americans Are Workaholics

One reason we're so hooked to our phone and email for work-related purposes is that we're... well, always working. According to TIME, Americans work about 1,788 hours per year; to put it in perspective, the French work 1,489 hours, while Germans work even less at 1,388 hours. This isn't necessarily a good thing, because being overworked leads to less vacation time, less relaxation time, and less time for you to take care of your body. Sure, you might be getting a little extra done around the office, but at what cost?

2. Emails Can Make Us Angry

Marcus Butts, a professor at the University of Texas, Arlington, getting an email with a negative tone can make you angry, which takes up a lot of energy and prevents you from engaging with more positive things that could have a better effect on your emotions. One email can ruin your whole evening and take time away self-care.

3. Non-Work-Related Emails Are Incredibly Rare

Long gone are the days of sweet ecards and email exchanges with your crush; we have texting and Facebook for that now. In this day and age, emails are usually only professional messages sent back and forth between employees and employers, so the association with the messaging system has come to exclusively be "work" whereas with Facebook, it's usually "light banter with an old friend." If it's 10 p.m. on a Friday night and you get an email notification, your brain will register it as something you don't want to deal with (because it's 10 p.m. on a Friday night) and your cortisol levels will go up.

So if you're an employer, stop emailing your employees when they're off the clock; and employees? Stop checking your email off hours unless you absolutely have to. It will benefit your health, which will in turn benefit business. We need time to rest our bodies and minds if we're going to bring our A-game to the office every day.

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